When a Friend Disappears

 

The first time I felt the exquisite ache of being ghosted by my BFF, I was 12.

Her name was Jill. She was my first real friend and the first girl to invite me to a sleepover. On weekends at her house, I crossed a threshold, and forged an identity that was separate from my family. That independence felt good.

Throughout elementary school, Jill and I spent every weekend hanging out eating Doritos out of the bag until our fingertips glowed, draining 2-liters of Big Red, and memorizing every word to “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang.

We were two nerdy girls on the verge of adolescence and we were inseparable.

Then, middle school started. That’s when it all crumbled. Jill met Amy and — poof! — I was out. Just like that, Jill ghosted me. No more weekend sleepovers. No more orange-stained fingers, no more red-rimmed smiles. No more independence.

I remember going over and over in my mind trying to figure out what happened. What did I do to make her suddenly decide to dump me?

One day I was in, the next I was out. No fight. No explanation. Nothing. I was certain I would drown in a pool of my own tears.

* * *

Stories of being ghosted by friends are all too familiar for women who survive adolescence. Girls can be brutal to one another.

But did you know that ghosting happens in friendships of adult women, too? You might be surprised how frequently long term friends ghost each other. I didn’t realize how frequently it happens until I stumbled on a thread in a Facebook discussion.

When you are ghosted in a romantic relationship, you are heartbroken; you feel disappointed and confused. So who do you turn to for solace? You turn to your best friend, of course. She is always there and always has your back.

In a private group I’m in, women shared their stories of BFFs who ghosted them out of the blue. I lost count of the number of comments like these:

“One day she just stopped returning my texts and calls. She even deleted me from Facebook. I still don’t know why. I was heartbroken.”

“I still don’t know what happened. I thought we were fine, then out of nowhere she disappeared. It took me months to get over it.”

“I was devastated after she dumped me. It felt like there was a death in my family. I felt my pain viscerally for months after.”

Their pain is real and — even years later — still feels as tender as a bruise.

When you are ghosted in a romantic relationship, you are heartbroken; you feel disappointed and confused. So who do you turn to for solace? You turn to your best friend, of course. She is always there and always has your back.

But what happens when it’s your BFF who ghosts you? Who do you turn to then? How do you deal with your emotions? What do you do about the isolation and pain that feel like a punch in the gut?

The answer is simple, but not easy to do: You must turn inward and rely on yourself.

But how? How do you rely on yourself when you feel broken and rejected?

You take slow, steady steps forward and show yourself who you really are. You remind yourself over and over again that you are worthy of love, loyalty, and friendship. You do not let your friend’s actions define you, nor do you allow them to make you feel small and unworthy.

You call up your inner strength to do the heavy lifting that’s needed to get past the pain and back to yourself again.

Below are five strategies to get you started on a path toward self-love and healing. I share them in hope that you can mend your own heart and come out better and stronger on the other side of the breakup.

* * *

Go ahead, cry your eyes out

The sadness you feel is real and it matters. Don’t waste your energy feeling ashamed or embarrassed about grieving your loss. Feel what you feel with no apologies.

The only way to get over the the rage, sadness, and confusion is to acknowledge them. Trying to push the emotions down is what’s keeping you in a spiral. Don’t hold back. Eventually you’ll wear yourself out and you’ll be ready to wash your face, brush your hair, and put on your lipstick. But until that day, feel your feelings.

How could someone you trusted, someone you shared countless laughs, tears, memories, and secrets with just one day decide to ghost you and stop being your friend?

Boldly go and do what you’ve never done before

When you’re ready, try opening yourself up to new experiences and adventures. Broaden your world through volunteering, travel, taking a class, adopting a dog, or diving into a creative project.

Step out of your ordinary routine and away from business as usual. If I’ve learned anything from my past breakups (platonic and romantic alike), it’s this: If you want something different, you have to do something different.

Name it to tame it

Unfortunately, most people’s emotional vocabulary is limited to the “mad, sad, glad triumvirate.” But a study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, by Alan S. Cowen and Dacher Keltner PhD., determined that people can actually experience as many as 27 distinct emotions.

To rein in those feelings and discover why they keep bubbling up and wrecking you, you have to be able to name them. What you want is to begin to understand them and learn from them. The best way to do that is to grab your pen and write it out in a journal anytime a wave of emotion swells up. Don’t stop writing at mad, sad, glad. Drill down further and get the heart of what’s really going on. Not only is this a great self-discovery exercise, it’s a way to regain control and get a clearer perspective at what’s really eating you on the inside.

Get radical with your self-care and self-compassion

The trauma of a BFF breakup affects you emotionally and physically. The natural response to any traumatic experience is exhaustion, anxiety, confusion, and numbness. If you don’t take care of yourself, your body won’t handle the stress well, and the ripple that follows will bring on more anxiety, illness, or deeper depression.

You have to take charge and nourish your body, mind, and spirit. That means eating whole food nutrition, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate sleep, exercising, spending time outdoors or having an “I love me day” and doing things that delight you.

You could start a meditation practice, get a massage, or start a gratitude journal. Whatever self-care looks like to you is what you should do. The most important thing is that you nurture and care for yourself. Make your well being and health your first priorities.

Unfollow, unfriend, hide, and block

Do yourself a favor and don’t stalk your former friend on social media. Seeing her posts pop up in your feeds is a sure way to have a bad day.

Her Facebook updates will do nothing but remind of how you were ghosted with no regard for your feelings or your pain. They will only stir up the ache inside. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Hide her profile, or better yet, delete her from your Friends List.

Go through your settings on all your social platforms and hide or delete her profile. It takes a few minutes, but it’s time well spent when it saves you from spiraling into a day of sadness.

* * *

How could someone you trusted, someone you shared countless laughs, tears, memories, and secrets with just one day decide to ghost you and stop being your friend?

Who can say for sure. She’s the only one who knows and she’s not talking.

The truth is, sometimes paths split. Boundaries are breached. Promises are broken. People change. That’s life.

You can’t control what anyone else does, but you can control what you do. How you respond is a choice you make every moment of every day. You can be reactive or proactive. The choice is yours.

Getting over the vacuum that she leaves behind will take time. You must re-decide every day to be take care of yourself. You will need self-compassion and patience to recover and get back to your old self again, so give yourself the time you need to grieve.

And maybe — after enough time passes and you can heal — you can reflect on what you learned from the experience. You just might come out of the bad situation better, stronger, and healthier than you were before it happened.

Previously published on “Change Becomes You”, a Medium publication.

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Photo credit: Kyle Broad on Unsplash

 

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